Category Archives: Theology

REASONS WHY SOME ARE NOT HEALED BY GOD

Introduction

Jesus-heals-blind-manMany are the accounts of miraculous healing. They have filled innumerable pages of books encouraging others to seek after God for their own healing. Books like Craig Keener’s two volume work Miracles contain healings of every human ailment; mental and physical. From simple headaches, Downs-Syndrome, and to the very resurrection of the dead, God’s power to heal knows no boundaries. However, it seems that as many who are healed many more are not.

Believers are sometimes perplexed and confused when they recognize that God has the power to heal, and yet many go without receiving a miraculous healing. In the face of such seemingly contradicting realities, the church has divided itself into two camps. On one side, those who believe that divine healing is a first century phenomenon and thus today’s healings are fake. On the other side, those who believe divine healing is available today, but those who are not healed lack faith to receive it. One proposes that Christians do not need to accept either of these extremes. Truly, divine healing is available to all believers for God’s character has not changed. However, to say that the lack of faith is the only reason behind not being healed is naïve and discouraging to the body of believers.

It is one’s aim, in this short paper, to demonstrate alternative reasons behind why one might not be divinely healed. One divides this into three major categories, which are faith, relationship, and sovereignty. These major categories are not divided as such in scripture; they are simply tools that one is using to organize these Biblical truths. One hopes that this brings a balanced understanding of divine healing while preserving the integrity of God’s character and the testimony of modern day healings.

Biblical Proviso.

The doctrine of divine healing is properly established on the atoning work of Christ. The Apostle Matthew makes a strong connection between Christ’s ministry and Isaiah 53:4-5,

Surely he has borne our griefs good friday

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

(cf. Matthew 8:17)

Because of the connection between healing and the atonement, many proponents of divine healing have come to the conclusion that divine healing is parallel to salvation. As such, it is always God’s will to heal all (more on the validity of this later) faithful believers. Moreover, they argue that as Christ healed all, he continues to heal all. Hence, they must conclude that a lack of healing is indicative of some lack in the believer’s part. Some even contemplate whether they ought to be called believers at all.

There are two errors in this assumption. First, one must not conclude that all benefits of the atonement stands in par to one another. In fact, sanctification is also processed through the atoning work of Christ, yet it is an ongoing process. If sanctification stood parallel to salvation, then it would take effect immediately. Unlike salvation, which is a once and for all occurrence, sanctification is ongoing until the parousia, and healing is available until death is finally defeated at the second advent. Note, three benefits are drawn from the atonement, but the application of these benefits is distinct; one is immediate, one is ongoing, and one is available and recurrent.

Second, there is an assumption that Christ and the disciples always healed, and yet there is Biblical evidence to the contrary. Case in point, at the pool of Bethesda the text states, “In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed” (John 5:3), but Christ healed only one. It seems that He was selective in his healing ministry. One can even use circumstantial evidence from Acts 3:2, which states that as Peter and John approached the temple “a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple.” Proponents of the “God is always willing” perspective may rejoice that this man receives a miraculous healing that day, but one also wonders why he had not been previously healed. Surely, being that he was laid there daily, he crossed paths with Jesus in one of his many visits to the temple complex. Therefore, the question remains to be answered; Why some are not healed?

Biblical Reasons

Faith

Faith is the first major category in response to this important question. Faith is also the most misunderstood element in divine healing. Countless times, one has heard the well-meaning sister or brother faulting fellow believers for not having faith or even for lacking enough faith to be healed. Often this misguided attempts to comfort causes more damage, and pain to the one who suffers. Therefore, a Biblical understanding of faith is crucial in preventing these mishaps. One must withdraw from the wealth of scripture a proper understanding of the relationship between faith and miracles; how much is needed, its importance, and whether it is a necessary element.

How Much is Needed?

Kathryn Kuhlman expressed in her book Never Too Late, “We know from God’s word that a faith that weighs no more than a grain of mustard seed will do more than a ton of will or a mind of determination.”

Truly, the scripture is very clear on the amount of faith one needs to be healed. The text suggested is found in Luke 17:6, “if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (cf. Matthew 17:20). The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to Jesus’ contemporaries, and the mountain was a symbol of stability; immovable (cf. Psalm 46:2; Isaiah 54:10).

The point was clear “the reason why ‘mustard seed’ faith can be so effective has to do, not with the adequacy of faith, but with the adequacy of God and the reality of what he is now putting into effect with Jesus.”

In Luke 9, a father brings his demoniac son to Jesus’ disciples, and they were unable to help him. After all the commotion, Jesus gets involved and asks the father if he believed that his son could be healed. The father’s answer reveals to the reader the nature of faith: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (v. 24b). Whatever the father’s motivation at the beginning of this interchange—for some suggest he was actually plotting alongside the Pharisees to embarrass Jesus and his disciples—at this point he recognizes that Jesus can help him. He also recognizes that faith comes from God. Faith is not a condition of the mind; it is a divinely imparted grace through the Holy Spirit. It is not some special effort on our part, and thus even faith as powerful and small as a mustard seed comes from God. Hence why Paul, in the context of diversity in the body, could state “each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Rom 12:3).

 

Is it Important?

Regardless of how small the amount of faith, the Biblical text highlights the importance of faith to divine healing. Matthew 13:58 states that Christ was unable to perform miracles in Nazareth, because of their unbelief. This is a clear case where a community’s lack of faith hindered God’s work in their midst. Moreover, there are occasions where a lack of faith on the part of the miracle worker hinders the work of the Spirit and the life of the one who suffers. This was the case with the young demon-possessed man whom the disciples could not help. When they asked Jesus why they were unable to cast out the demon, He replied, “Because of your little faith” (Matt 17:20b); a statement that seems to contradict the words that follow it in regards to having faith as small as a mustard seed. Hendriksen and Kistemaker explain, “They had not sufficiently taken to heart the comfort they should have derived from the assurances which their Lord had given them (7:7–10; 10:8), and had not persisted in prayer. When the demon did not immediately leave they should not have stopped praying.”

It seems that Christ was making a distinction between having faith and exercising faith. The disciples did not need more faith, they simply needed to uses that which they had.

It is clear that faith is an important element in divine healing. Countless times Christ spoke the words, “your faith has made you well,” which are not to be taken as faith enacting healing, but enabling healing. Faith is important not only from the perspective of the one who suffers, but also from the perspective of the community and from the perspective of the servant of God. To a certain extent, those who adhere to the “God is always willing” perspective, are correct in that lack of faith is a hindrance to healing. However, the point of disagreement lies in that one believes that lack of faith is not the only hindrance to divine healing.

 

Is it Necessary?

At this juncture, the scripture throws in the proverbial, “monkey wrench” into the whole equation. There is evidence that even though faith is an important element to divine healing, it is not always necessary for the one who suffers to have faith. In fact, Jesus healed both people who expressed faith and some who did not express faith whatsoever. Case in point, one of the clearest example of an unbeliever being healed is found in the narrative of Jesus’ arrest. While getting preoccupied by the zealous actions of Peter, who severs a servant’s ear, it is easy to overlook the fact that immediately after Jesus heals this unbeliever.

Other healing narratives, such as the paralytic by the pool of Bethesda, the ten lepers, and the man born blind, lack any evidence that the sufferers made a confession of faith. One gathers that God sometimes heals to forward His purposes even when the one who suffers lacks faith. This is just another act of grace from God, for the benefit of divine healing is reserved for His children alone. Moreover, it begins to open the door to understanding the place of God’s sovereignty in relation to divine healing. This brings comfort to those interceding for loved ones who are not saved.

Toxic Relationships

God

Based on what has been discussed so far, it should not be as surprising that a relationship with God is important to divine healing. Two points have been made clear, divine healing is provided through the atoning sacrifice through Christ, and this is made operative only on those who accept that sacrifice; His children. This is the foundation to a relationship with God. However, even His children hinder their own healing through unhealthy relationship with God.

One has found three detrimental attitudes toward God; namely, lack of submission, disregarding His Lordship, and an unyielding resolve. God the father is a loving father and does not want to humiliate His children, but He requires His children to humble themselves before Him. Peter reminds his readers, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:6). Moreover, Proverbs 16:5 states, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (cf. Proverbs 21:4). Clearly, a believer does well to practice humility; that is, to see himself or herself no more or less than how God sees him/her.

Disregarding His Lordship is another attitude detrimental to one’s relationship with the creator. Not giving God a rightful place in ones life, or neglecting Him by attempting to live without Him. Perhaps, this is the most common form of hindrance in this category found in American culture. Far too many Christians attempt to live life independent of God, and treat God as a cosmic “sugar-daddy” which can be accessed only when needed. If a believer wants to receive divine healing, he must allow God to be Lord of his or her life not just of his or her health. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthian church, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5), and then reminds them of Christ’s Lordship, “And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Finally, an unyielding resolve is a toxic attitude in relating to God. Reminiscent of the account of Naaman coming to the prophet of God seeking to be healed, many desire healing on their own terms, and with their own purposes in mind. God is a loving father, but He should not be expected to serve man. Again, He is God, and not man that He should serve according to mankind’s whims.

 

Community (Church/family)

Not only is a toxic relationship posture with God a hindrance to healing, but also ones relationship with the community. The Bible constantly exhorts the faithful to be reconciled to those they have offended; even at the risk of not receiving forgiveness from God: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25) One has always maintained that Christ—when establishing His church—created a community, and not a group of individuals. As such there are certain responsibilities to one another. John goes as far as to remind his reader that it is God’s commandment, and that it has an effect on the reader’s relationship with God: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21)

Self

The final subcategory on this larger grouping of “relationship” is toxic relationship with self. God designed our bodies, and gave us a stewardship over it. The Bible even calls it the temple of the Holy Spirit, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple”(1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Believers should not expect God to intervene on their behalf, when they are actively destroying their own bodies. It is absurd to ask God to heal one’s emphysema while smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Actions have consequences, and one should be aware of them. Truly God can heal these self-inflicted diseases, and he has, but He is not under any obligation to do so.

According to Cooper and Palmer Stress elicits “physical (e.g., headache, sleeplessness, breathlessness), physiological (e.g., increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration), or psychosocial (e.g., mood swings, anxiety, depression) reactions.”

Is it any wonder, that Christ exhorts us, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). God has provided the means to live a healthy life. Sabotaging ones body is against His will, and it creates health issues. Believers undergoing self-inflicted suffering should repent, change their lifestyle, and then pray for healing.

God’s Sovereignty

The final reason in answering the question of why some are not healed is that God as sovereign has chosen not to heal. Those who propose that God is always willing to heal, fail to recognize His sovereignty. No amount of faith, prayer, and good deeds can coerce God into action. One proposes that the many Biblical passages that indicate that it is God’s will to heal are being misunderstood, and interpreted as if it is God’s will to heal all today. The scripture also indicates that it is God’s will that all would be saved, but it is also clear that not all are going to be saved. It is important to recognize that at times, the scripture simply describes the motivation and desire of God’s heart. Ideally, God desires for all His people to be healed, realistically this is not the case today.

Furthermore, it should be noted that God’s ultimate purpose for His children is complete physical and spiritual healing. At the parousia believers will receive a new body incorruptible, and sickness and disease will become lost in the past. Nonetheless, God’s promise for today is that He will be present in one’s suffering. In fact, Paul glorified God in his suffering. This is not to say that God caused suffering, but simply that He is capable of using it for His purpose and the sufferer’s benefit. Therefore, when a believer is not healed one must resist the temptation of always placing fault at the feet of the victim. Moreover, never forget that God has seen fit that some of His children can be trusted with suffering like Job.

Conclusion

It is one’s hope that a cogent case has been made. Indeed, some are not miraculously healed not only because of a lack of faith, but because of toxic relationships and God’s sovereignty. The Biblical evidence compels the reader to hold all these truths in balance. This is not to say that God is fickle or arbitrary, but that one must resist the tendency to place God into a neatly packaged box. No one answer can serve as the universal response, for God relates to His children personally and differently. In fact, one would not dare to claim that all the reasons for a lack of healing have been exhausted in this short treatise. This is simply a human attempt to understand an infinite God. Nonetheless, the scriptures are clear, His thoughts are higher than ours, and his way higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). At the end of the day, perhaps the best answer is simply, “I don’t know.” Ultimately all believers will receive their healing when they’re clothed in white garments with a glorified body. This is not pie in the sky, but an affirmation of God’s ultimate purpose for His bride.

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Filed under Christianity, faith, healing, miracles, Theology

The Witness at Your Doorsteps: A Critical Analysis of Doctrines of the “Jehovah’s Witness” Cult

Sam is a Christian, his father was a Christian, and so was his father before him. Moreover, Sam was just elected as deacon of his church. Imagine that—thirty years ago he was a kid in the nursery, but today he is entrusted with the church finances. Sam is not known for being a power seeker, for most know him as a gentle, humble, and caring man of God. He is also known for his hard work; in fact, he has his own real estate business which he built from the ground up. He truly loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, and strength.

On this Saturday morning, Sam is meditating on the Lord, but soon enough he is interrupted by the doorbell. He opens the door and behold! Two well dressed men are standing before him. Oh, no! Jehovah’s Witnesses! What is there to do? He forgot to use the peep hole! The thought of shutting the door crossed his mind, but the outback of a fish on his door and the wooden cross made in Israel around his neck identify him as a believer. There is only one thing left to do—give them five minutes and then excuse yourself to do some errands. What Sam does not realize is, five minutes is a long time.

“Hello!” said the older man. “My name is…” and that is all Sam could remember, for after this point a rapid fire of Bible verses followed in sequence, interrupted only by the occasional “yes or no” question. Even before Sam could make an objection, it seemed the Jehovah’s Witness (JW) was already answering his question. Conversely, Sam does not have a response to the JWs objections, leaving him helpless. At this point he is not sure what he believes.

Many believers have found themselves in similar scenarios. When comparing an average JW to an average Christian, they seem to have the lead on scripture knowledge; in fact, one suspects that, the main reason most believers refuse to open the door to a JW is that they are unable to refute them. Many sincere believers, like Sam, are sincere in their faith and they truly love the lord with all their heart, soul, and strength, but they fail to love him with all their minds. The scripture tells us, “But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (ESV 1 Peter 3.15-16 emphasis added). The Church has failed to train believers in this capacity. So great is the problem of believers who do not know their own faith that many have said, “What’s the big deal? They read the same Bible we do! After all, Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians, right?” Wrong; not only does one disagree with this statement, but one challenges, on the basis of their views on the Godhead (that Jesus is “a god” and the Holy Spirit “a force”), their view on salvation (by works), and their view on hell (as not a place of torment rather just the grave) that, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a dangerously heretical cult misrepresenting themselves as Bible-believing Christians.

Before believers decide to embrace the JWs in fellowship, let us first make sure that we are worshiping the same God and that they truly adhere to biblical doctrine. The Watchtower Bible and Track Society (WBTS) headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, is the official voice and leadership of the JWs. They published a summary of their views on a small book entitled Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life where it reads, “Therefore, those who accept the Bible as God’s Word do not worship a trinity consisting of three persons or gods in one. In fact, the word ‘Trinity’ does not even appear in the Bible,” (31). The WBTS has misrepresented the doctrine of the trinity as a belief in “gods.” There is not one mainstream denomination that holds this view. Christians do not equate three persons with three gods, for this is contrary to scripture. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 6.4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Keeping this in mind, the Bible has more to say about this one-God. The book of 1 Peter 1:2 says, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (emphasis added). Here the father, that is Jehovah, is called God, in ones opinion not even the JWs would deny the fact that Jehovah is the one-God, yet there is more about this one-God. The Word of God also says, “And Thomas answered and said to Him [Jesus], ‘My Lord and my God!’” (emphasis added), but wait, here Thomas calls Jesus God. Furthermore, in Acts 5:3-4 it says,

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (emphasis added)

Here Peter refers to the Holy Spirit as God. Now, we also know that Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are not three names for the same person, for

when Jesus was baptized immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending and coming to rest on him; and behold, like a dovea voice from heaven said,This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”. (Matthew 3:16-17)

Be reassured: the Bible is not contradicting itself when it said there is only one God yet three distinct persons are called God. There is a better way to explain this paradox. Mainstream Christians have no difficulty in recognizing that God is three co-equal and co-existing persons in one being, for in the same manner God lives outside of time—since he is not bound by time—and God is not bound by the flesh, thus capable of being three and one at the same time. The JWs would explain these passages by saying that Jesus was not God (to them he was a god) and that the Holy Spirit is simply an active force of God, somewhat like electricity or microwave heat.

The JW belief that Jesus was not God is full of many biblical difficulties. When faced with the fact that Thomas called Jesus “My God,” the JWs have two explanations for the text. First, they say that Thomas simply said the equivalent to “Oh, my God!” when surprised by Jesus. The problem with this explanation is that Thomas, being a Jew, would not have used God’s name that lightly, nor refer to a man as God. So much was the respect of Jews for God’s name that they would not pronounce it during their reading of the scrolls; due to this tradition, today we are not sure how to properly pronounce the Old Testament name of God—the Tetragrammaton YHWH. The second explanation is that Thomas looked at Jesus and said “my Lord” and then looked towards heaven and said “and my God”. This simply is an attempt to make the scriptures fit into their doctrines, for the context of the test does not even imply such an occurrence; Thomas simply meant what he said.

Aside from misinterpreting verses, JW will go to great length to prove their doctrines, including making modifications to the Word of God. Most English Bibles translate the Greek text of John 1:1 as, “in the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (emphasis added). The Watchtower’s translation known as The New World Translation states, “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” (emphasis added). This of course, brings greater difficulty even within their translation. When they said Jesus was “a god,” it begs the question “What kind of god is He?” Most JWs will say a lesser god, that is, not the almighty God. If one was to open their own Bible (NWT) to Isaiah, one will find verses such as Isaiah 43.10 which says, “Before me [Jehovah] there was no God formed, and after me there continued to be none” again in verse 46.9 it says, “I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me.” Furthermore, the NWT states that all will bow before Jesus (Phil 2.10); if he is “a god”, then JWs would be bowing before another god. This would contradict Exodus 34.14 where they are commanded not to prostrate before other gods. In the same chapter of Philippians (chapter two) verse eleven, it says that every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, but if Jesus is another god besides Jehovah, then JWs are violating the command not to mention the name of other gods in Exodus 23.13. The truth is, the Watchtower change the Bible to fit their theology, and in the process caused their own translation to contradict how many gods are there and the manner in which to worship these gods. Fortunately for believers, these verses do not contradict in the original Greek text because Jesus is not “a God” but “the God”; more accurately, he is the second member of the Godhead of three persons. JWs are not allowed to pray to Jesus, those who do so are excommunicated from the church, and ostracized from their family.

Having dealt with Jesus deity as a member of the Godhead, it is fitting to discuss the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The Watchtower affirms, “God’s Holy Spirit is not a person. It is Jehovah’s active force” (Knowledge 31). But this is incorrect and not in agreement with scriptures. It is interesting that the watchtower—while making a case for the existence and personhood of Satan in opposition to those who believe Satan to be just an abstract symbol of evil—wrote on their Awake magazine, “Can an intelligent ‘force’ carry on a conversation with a person? Also, the Bible calls Satan a manslayer, a liar, a father (in a spiritual sense) and a ruler. Only an intelligent person could fit all those descriptions” (qtd. in Magnani 230). Using the same logic they have used, the Holy Spirit is a person. In Acts 13.2 the Holy Spirit converses with a person; He speaks and asks to set Barnabas and Paul aside for His purposes. Just as Satan’s personhood is proven by the fact he is called a liar and a manslayer, the Spirit is called teacher and comforter (John 16.7,13) thus proving He is a person. Additionally, the Holy Spirit is always referred to in the third person masculine pronoun—he, him or his—in the Bible. According to Herbert Kern in his Book Jehovah’s Witnesses , “in John 16 the The New World Translation refers to the Holy spirit (translated ‘helper’ or ‘spirit of the truth’) 10 times as a person (‘he,’ ‘his,’ or ‘him’)” (30). If one closely reads the scriptures one will find that the Holy Spirit possesses traits only a person can have. The Holy Spirit loves (ESV Romans 15.30), He intercedes (Romans 8.27), He can be grieved (Ephesians 4.30), and knows the future (Acts 21.11). The Spirit has knowledge, will and emotions, and a force cannot possess any of these qualities. It is safe to conclude that the person of the Holy Spirit is God, Jesus is God, and Jehovah is God, and not three gods but one God.

Aside from their views on the godhead, JWs also have a different view of salvation than what is taught in the Bible. Many verses in the New Testament are quite clear on how salvation is obtained. Salvation by grace is the overarching theme of most of Paul’s letters. In Ephesians he said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (2.8-9), and to the Romans he wrote, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”(10.9). While the Watchtower gives lip service to salvation by grace, their published materials say otherwise. In their Watchtower magazine dated February 15, 1983, they outline four requirements for salvation—“taking in knowledge of the Bible,” “Obey God’s law,” “Associate with God’s channel,” and “loyally advocating his kingdom rule to others” (qtd. in Magnani 242). To study the Bible means to learn from the materials which the Watchtower has published. “Obeying God’s law” is not a reference to the Levitical law, but to the rules set by the Watchtower, such as prohibiting blood transfusion and saluting flags. “To Associate with God’s channel” is to belong to the Watchtower organization as a Jehovah’s Witness, and finally loyally advocating Christ’s kingdom means going from door to door witnessing.

Their view of salvation stems from the fact that they do not believe Jesus to be God, for according to the Watchtower website, “Christ was first of God’s creations” therefore he was merely a created creature. A creature (lamb, bull) cannot cleanse your sins; if that was the case then the Levitical laws would have been enough. Once the JWs changed the nature of Christ, they were left with a creature as a means of salvation rather than God, thereby giving them no hope but to rely on salvation by works. Often a JW will quote James 2.14-26 as pointing to need of works for salvation. However, this is a lack of understanding of the text, for what James is trying to impart is not salvation by works but rather that faith is made complete by works. In other words, works is the natural result of faith not the cause of our faith (or salvation). Sadly this has left many of their adherents with a lack of assurance of their salvation. Many have asked themselves, how much work is needed to enter paradise, for as the Watchtower put’s it “Our salvation is not the most important reason for Jesus’ life and death on earth” (Knowledge 69).

Beyond their corrupted view of the Godhead and their tainted outlook on salvation, JWs hold to a doctrine on hell that, perhaps, is the most damaging. Simply put, they believe hell as place of judgment does not exist. The Watchtower arrives at this doctrine through the belief that the soul ceases to exist at death. Watchtower publication states, “Where do the dead go? To Sheol (Hebrew she’ohl’), the common grave of mankind. Our dead loved ones are not conscious of anything. They are not suffering, and they cannot affect us in any way” (Knowledge 83). To prove their view, they quote verses like Ecclesiastes 9.5 and Ezekiel 18.4, but once again they are guilty of bad exegesis.

Ecclesiastes 9.5 states, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward.” In context this verse is referring to the fact of life that at death no one can enjoy the pleasures of life (its reward); it is a reference to earthly rewards not rewards after death. In addition, the verse makes no reference to the soul ceasing to exist. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 5:12, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (emphasis added), is Jesus lying? Most Christians—a title claimed by JW—would shudder at the thought of a lying Christ.

Their second proof text Ezekiel 18.4 states, “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die” (emphasis added). The Hebrew word used in this text is nephesh (vp,n</neºpeš) which can be translated as “soul, person, life, and being”. A better translation would be the one rendered by the Jewish Publication Society: “Consider, all lives are Mine; the life of the parent and the life of the child are both Mine. The person who sins, only he shall die” (JPS TNK emphasis added). Simply put, the verse is referring to a soul as an indication of a person not as the spiritual element of a human being.

As it was said before, a JW comes to the conclusion that hell does not exist as a place of torment because they do not believe the soul is separate from the body. Although Paul does make a distinction between body and soul when he said, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5.8). Whenever Jesus referred to hell or the lake of fire, He spoke of it as a real place where there is suffering (cf. Matthew 8.12; 13.42, 50; 22.13; 24.51). When the Watchtower defines hell as the common-grave, they are basically saying that all of us will go to hell (grave), and that’s okay.

In conclusion, JW concept of God is not in accordance with biblical revelation, and therefore, is not the God of the Bible, the God Christians worship. In good conscience, one cannot refer to a JW as a Christian, for a Christian is one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, as revealed in scriptures. Christ taught hell was a real place of torment and punishment while JW simply the grave. A group that does not agree with Christ cannot be called His followers. Moreover, their teaching on hell is a dangerous deception, and has caused many to have a false sense of security. If there is no ultimate punishment for sin, or consciousness after death then who cares whether one accepts Christ or not.

Dedication, motivation, modestly well dressed, and being emphatic regarding scripture memorization are some of the characteristics of JWs we ought to emulate. Believers must step up to the challenge outline in 1 Peter 3.15-16 under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pastors and church leaders must equip the believers to be able to give an answer to those who would attempt to teach a different gospel. Let it be that when JW come to the doorsteps of a Christian, he or she becomes a witness to Jesus. Christians have a hope of salvation by grace that the JWs do not possess. One hopes that those who truly follow the teaching of Jesus Christ allow the radiance of the gospel shine on the darkness of heretic teachings.

According to David Reed a former Jehovah’s Witness elder and author of How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower, to a Jehovah’s Witness , “a church is a demon- infested building surmounted by a pagan symbol [the cross]…filled with immoral people who worship a three headed false god [trinity] and salute an idol made of cloth [the national flag]” (135). Keeping this in mind, some would say “what’s the big deal?” one is compelled to answer, souls are the big deal.

Works Cited

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Good News, 2001.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses Who are they? What do they believe?” Watchtower.org. 2006. Watchtower Bible and Track Society. 15March 2008

The Jewish Study Bible: JPS TANAKH. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004

Kern, Herbert. Jehovah’s Witnesses. St. Louis: Concordia Pub, 1995.

Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. Brooklyn: Watchtower, 1995.

The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Brooklyn: Watchtower, 1984.

Magnani, Duane and Arthur Barrett. The Watchtower Files. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1985.

Reed, David. How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower. Grand Rapids: Baker Pub Group, 1989.


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Filed under Christ, Christianity, Christology, heresy, Holy Spirit, Jehovah's witness, soul sleep, Theology, watchtower